Flying Fish

Since the water rose above 70 degrees, Dominic has patrolled the boat once a day with the sole intention of tossing flying fish back into the water. Except for one that landed in the cockpit this morning that we were able to return to the sea missing only a few scales, they are all long dead by the time he finds them. He finds somewhere between five and a dozen, babies the size of dragonflies and six inch adults with wings that extend the length of their bodies. We watch them skimming the water all day. Some are single long jumpers, others spray from crests in schools of 50 or more, escaping a predator or an uncomfortable wave. Dominic watched a fish fly over the 14 foot beam of the boat, surviving unscathed from a minor collision with the rigging upon descent. Can they sense Helios and her motion through the water? Are the ones we find scattered on the deck the losers of a competitive dare—flying fish playing chicken? Or is the final impact a rude surprise that comes not knowing they have leapt from the water for the last time?

The past 75 hours have offered plenty of time to ponder such things. The rainy weather was forecasted southeast of our position, so Friday morning under increasing winds we gybed westward and were able to maintain dry weather and at least partly sunny skies for most of the weekend. Nevertheless, we were down below deck until Monday morning, holding on tight as 35-45 knot winds whipped up waves and sent them spraying into the cockpit. We had steep seas that pushed 20 feet and were streaked with white caps. Being down below felt something like living in a really small studio apartment during a continuous and catastrophic earthquake.

We were living, sleeping, and keeping watch in the main saloon. We have an electronics display indoors that tracks the wind and boat velocity and monitors traffic (there isn’t any–we’re quite alone). We poked our heads above deck every half hour to make sure the staysail was in trim and check the direction of the waves. We hung out in the aft cabin in the afternoons to watch a movie and get a change of scenery. We read guide books about the Marquesas to keep our spirits high.

By Monday morning the winds calmed to a comfortable 25 knots. Dominic had the chance to inspect our rigging. We found that we had been overzealous with our wing on wing configuration, flying it in too high winds, too deep, and with the code zero slightly out of trim. The result was a halyard that had chaffed through the entire outside webbing of the line, so rigging the spare has made it to the top of the to do list. In spite of the wear, we’re both feeling great under the more relaxed conditions. Though the seas are still rolling, we spent the day enjoying the warm, sunny fresh air. We prepared more interesting meals, soaked in the seaside panoramas, and enjoyed a Monday spent lounging in the cockpit.

Making us even more excited are some of the milestones were are looking forward to in the near future: making 1,500 nautical miles, roughly the halfway point, crossing the ITCZ, the equator, and then making a straight shot to tropical paradise!